Tech Transfer eNews Blog

How crowdsourcing is going to change the patent process

By David Schwartz
Published: June 25th, 2014

In the world of tech transfer, crowdsourcing doesn’t only provide an alternative to traditional fundraising; it’s also another way – and an increasingly important and useful way — to research prior art when filing a patent.

There is a traditional industry method for finding the prior art of a patent’s subject area, complete with government agencies and professional patent services firms. But it is not such a traditional world today. In the words of Steve Bynghall, freelance consultant on knowledge management, “the increasingly global nature of intellectual property, the opening up of searchable patent databases on the web … the high number of questionable patents and a highly litigious world has resulted in both commercial pressure and a clear opportunity to open up the sector to crowdsourced models.”

There are obviously benefits to the older method, but by utilizing the crowd in addition to standard prior art searches, it allows for a more iterative approach to directed searches as new leads and unforeseen avenues open up. Put simply, it makes filing a patent safer than it was before.

Even patent agencies themselves have experimented with crowdsourcing. As far back as 2007, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office launched a crowdsourcing pilot, Peer to Patent, described as “an online system that aims to improve the quality of issued patents by enabling the public to supply the USPTO with information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications.”

Then in 2012, USPTO seized the America Invents Act to allow third parties to submit relevant materials to help patent examiners. The transition was helped by Google’s newly created patent search engine and Stack Exchange’s “Ask Patents” community. Although there were only about 1,200 “third party preissuance submissions” over the first fifteen months, USPTO is exploring new ways to make crowdsourcing work within the system.

“The crowdsourcing model has clear value for discovering prior art,” says Bynghall. “Looking at how it is changing the patent industry is a classic example of what is happening in some other areas where early experiments are superseded by a commercially successful model. Eventually crowdsourcing infiltrates the mainstream.”

Source: Getting Results From Crowds

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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